§ 15. Mr. Sheerman
asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps he takes to encourage the establishment, to assist the growth and to ensure the survival of the British robotics industry.
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker
The Government provide financial assistance to United Kingdom companies to develop and manufacture new types of robot and to United Kingdom companies to install robots. We also support consultancy studies for robotics. Grants totalling over £8 million have so far been offered by my Department for those purposes.
§ Mr. Sheerman
Does the Minister accept that many of us believe that this is part of a public relations exercise on the high tech side, while, at the same time, most of British industry is falling to pieces? Is he aware that Remek, one of the leading and largest robotics manufacturers in Britain, based in Milton Keynes, is now in the hands of the receiver and that some people have argued that the Government neglect British robotics and encourage only joint Japanese ventures?
§ Mr. Baker
I disagree with what the hon. Gentleman has said. A few years ago only two or three companies in the United Kingdom were capable of making robots. There 13 are now 15. There are about six joint ventures between Japanese and British companies and American and British companies. This is not a PR exercise. I want to extend the use of robots and robotic devices throughout British industry. That will help to make it more competitive.